By Jeff Keaton
In Part One of this series, we looked at the answers Genesis provides for who holds ultimate authority in this world and how we got here. In this article, we’ll look at one of the essential questions all worldviews must answer.
What does it mean to be human?
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image . . .’” Genesis 1:26
Have you ever thought about the vast difference between all other species and humans? If, as the theory of evolution teaches, humans are simply the most highly evolved animals, how did we get so far ahead of all other species? Why are we the only species that can think, design, plan, and communicate at such an advanced level? We build things no other species can build. We organize governments, discover amazing ways to enhance our health and well-being, and build complex societal structures. We control everything on earth. As powerful as a lion is, it has no ability to put humans in cages. We have, as God commanded, taken dominion of the earth.
In a world where most don’t understand what makes humans special and different, we kill millions of babies in the womb but fight with religious fervor to save whales, find homes for abandoned cats and dogs, and care for our pets better than many care for their children. Humans are blamed for polluting the planet and being a nuisance to “Mother Earth.” Some of the wealthiest people are doing everything they can to convince young couples not to have children so that we can reduce the human population. Humans are seen as the primary problem the earth faces.
God answers the question of what it means to be human in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
According to a biblical worldview, humans are not the problem; they are God’s solution. He has made us superior to all other species by stamping His image and likeness upon us.
Three Primary Areas Where God’s Image and Likeness Are Shown
1: Humans are mentally or intellectually superior to all other species.
Compare the greatest invention of a chimpanzee (our closest relative according to evolutionists) with the inventions of humans. Chimpanzees haven’t done anything but survive. Humans have created massive systems to foster human flourishing and improve every aspect of life because some part of God’s creative mind and sense of purpose has been given to us.
Compare the communication skills of any animal with the communication skills of humans. Humans think, design, plan, speak, and write out their intentions with amazing clarity. Why? Because God as a thinking, designing, planning, speaking, and writing being has given us some of His abilities.
2: Humans have an embedded sense of morality, spirituality, and immortality like no other species.
Every group of people discovered on earth has a moral code they are trying to live by. Humans have a sense of right and wrong hard-wired into them like no other species. Where did this come from? It came from a holy God who stamped this part of His image and likeness upon us and has called us “to be holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16). When we watch a lion chase down an antelope on a TV show, no one ever calls for justice for the antelope. However, when a human assaults another human, we all know justice must be served. Why? Because we have a God-given understanding that immoral actions must be punished.
As a part of His moral image stamped on us, God has given humans a level of freedom to choose that He hasn’t given to other species. In this box called time, we have an amazing level of freedom. We can choose right or wrong, where to live and work, and who to marry or not marry. With this level of freedom comes a level of accountability to God that animals do not have.
This moral sense is produced in us because of the never-dying soul God has given to every human. We inherently know there is something more than just the physical world we see, and all cultures have a sense that there is something for us after we die. Humans are the only species that can have a personal relationship with the God of heaven. All humans are drawn to worship someone or something because we were made for this purpose.
3: Humans are social beings like no other species.
Whereas God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have lived in communion with each other for all eternity, humans have this great need to create families and social networks. This is a part of His image that is stamped on our hearts and minds. Humans long for meaningful relationships, and it is in these healthy relationships where humans thrive. Apart from meaningful social networks, humans end up in despair and dysfunction, and many end up taking their lives or wasting them on substitutes to fill the void. In a later article in this series, we will look at God’s good design for these social networks.
Children who are not given the right answer to what it means to be human grow up embracing all types of falsehood. When humans are considered not to have an intrinsic value greater than all other species, concepts such as abortion, assisted suicide, and saving whales over saving babies make sense.
Being created in the image of God is a huge privilege and honor. He has given us a shadow of His brilliance and abilities, so we can show the world His beauty and serve as His vice-regents on earth. It is of utmost importance that we impress this on the hearts and minds of our children so they will live with the great purpose they were created for.
In the coming articles in this series, we will look at the answers Genesis provides for these ultimate questions:
Why do we have two genders?
What is our purpose for being here?
What is marriage, and what is its purpose?
What is wrong with this world? Why is there so much evil?
Is there any hope for this world? What is that hope?
To read the first article and purchase upcoming issues that continue this series, visit renewanation.org/magazine.
Jeff Keaton has been a successful pastor, church and school planter, and ministry entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of Renewanation, Jeff works across the United States and Canada to help awaken the church to the great need to give every child a biblical worldview. Jeff is married to Michele, and they have two daughters, two sons-in-law, two grandsons, and a granddaughter. He is the author of The Life of Radical Faith.